Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


Calin-Andrei Mihailescu


This thesis is an examination of physical pain in ancient tragedy, with the focus on three plays: Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and Sophocles’ Philoctetes and Trachiniae. The study unfolds the layers of several conceptual systems in order to get closer to the core—pain and its limits in tragedy. The first chapter aims to show that Aristotle’s model for the analysis of tragedy in his classificatory tract, the Poetics, centered on the ill-defined concept of mimesis, is an attempt to tame pain and clean tragedy of its inherent viscerality. The second chapter looks at the dualist solution advanced by Plato and Descartes, while showing that a discourse rooted in dualism alienates pain from tragedy. The third chapter provides axes of analysis for three tragedies where pain plays a central role by using the idea of pain as an experience of the limit and looking at the different ways in which pain splits the subject. The thesis also advances the idea that, for the most part, conceptual frames act as analgesic systems that obstruct the exposure to the experience of intensity in ancient tragedy.